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The Republic of Ghana is a country in West Africa. It borders Côte d'Ivoire to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south. The word "Ghana" means "Warrior King."
It was inhabited in pre-colonial times by a number of ancient kingdoms, including the Ga Adangbes on the eastern coast, inland Empire of Ashanti and various Fante states along the coast and in land. Trade with European states flourished after contact with the Portuguese in the 15th century, and the British established a crown colony, Gold Coast, in 1874.
Upon achieving independence from the United Kingdom in 1957, the name Ghana was chosen for the new nation to reflect the ancient Empire of Ghana that once extended throughout much of west of Africa.
Medieval Ghana (4th - 13th Century): The Republic of Ghana is named after the medieval Ghana Empire of West Africa. The actual name of the Empire was Wagadugu. Ghana was the title of the kings who ruled the kingdom. It was controlled by Sundiata in 1240 AD, and absorbed into the larger Mali Empire. (Mali Empire reached its peak of success under Mansa Musa around 1307.)
Geographically, the old Ghana is 500 miles north of the present Ghana, and occupied the area between Rivers Senegal and Niger.
Some inhabitants of present Ghana had ancestors linked with the medieval Ghana. This can be traced down to the Mande and Voltaic people of Northern Ghana--Mamprussi, Dagomba and the Gonja.
Anecdotal evidence connected the Akans to this great Empire. The evidence lies in names like Danso shared by the Akans of present Ghana and Mandikas of Senegal/Gambia who have strong links with the Empire.
Ghana was also the site of the Empire of Ashanti which was the most advanced black state in sub-Sahara Africa. It is said that at its peak, the King of Ashanti could field 500,000 troops.
Gold Coast & European Exploration: Before March 1957 Ghana was called the Gold Coast. The Portuguese who came to Ghana in the 15th Century found so much gold between the rivers Ankobra and the Volta that they named the place Mina - meaning Mine. The Gold Coast was later adopted to by the English colonisers. Similarly, the French, equally impressed by the trinkets worn by the coastal people, named The Ivory Coast, Cote d'Ivoire.
In 1482, the Portuguese built a castle in Elmina. Their aim was to trade in gold, ivory and slaves. In 1481 King John II of Portugal sent Diego d'Azambuja to build this castle.
In 1598 the Dutch joined them, and built forts at Komenda and Kormantsi. In 1637 they captured the castle from the Portuguese and that of Axim in 1642 (Fort St Anthony). Other European traders joined in by the mid 17th century. These were the English, Danes and Swedes. The coastline were dotted by forts built by the Dutch, British and the Danish merchants. By the latter part of 19th century the Dutch and the British were the only traders left and when the Dutch withdrew in 1874, Britain made the Gold Coast a crown colony.
For most of central sub-Saharan Africa, agricultural expansion marked the period before 500. Farming began earliest on the southern tips of the Sahara, eventually giving rise to village settlements. Toward the end of the classical era, larger regional kingdoms were formed in West Africa, one of which was the Kingdom of Ghana, north of what is today the nation of Ghana. After its fall at the beginning of the 13th century, Akan migrants moved southward then founded several nation-states including the first great Akan empire of the Bono which is now known as the ibalBrong Ahafo region in Ghana. Later Akan groups such as the Ashanti federation and Fante states are thought to possibly have roots in the original Bono settlement at Bono manso. Much of the area was united under the Empire of Ashanti by the 16th century. The Ashanti government operated first as a loose network and eventually as a centralized kingdom with an advanced, highly-specialized bureaucracy centered in Kumasi.
The first contact between the Ghanaian peoples, the Fantes on the coastal area and Europeans occurred in 1482. The Portuguese first landed at Elmina, a coastal city inhabited by the Fanti nation-state in 1482. During the next few centuries pieces of the area were controlled by British, Portuguese, and Scandinavian powers, with the British ultimately prevailing. These nation-states maintained varying alliances with the colonial powers and each other, which resulted in the 1806 Ashanti-Fante War, as well as an ongoing struggle by the Empire of Ashanti against the British. Moves toward regional de-colonialization began in 1946, and the area's first constitution was promulgated in 1951.
Formed from the merger of the British colony Gold Coast, The Empire of Ashanti and the British Togoland trust territory by a UN sponsored plebiscite, Ghana became the first democratic sub-Sahara country in colonial Africa to gain its independence in 1957. Kwame Nkrumah, founder and first president of the modern Ghanaian state, was not only an African anti-colonial leader but also one with a dream of a united Africa which would not drift into neo-colonialism. He was the first African head of state to espouse Pan-Africanism, an idea he came into contact with during his studies at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania (United States), at the time when Marcus Garvey was becoming famous for his "Back to Africa Movement." He merged the dreams of both Marcus Garvey and the celebrated African-American scholar W.E.B. Du Bois into the formation of the modern day Ghana. Ghana's principles of freedom and justice, equity and free education for all, irrespective of ethnic background, religion or creed borrows from Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah's implementation of Pan-Africanism.
Sources: Wikipedia and CIA World Factbook
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